Beefin' With Lou Dobbs
But when a telephone interview with Lou Dobbs yesterday deteriorated to the point where he questioned my intelligence and my journalism abilities three times, I had to respectfully end the conversation.
It was too bad, because I was hoping to explore the phenomenon of his recent success at CNN, using his town hall meeting convened in Tampa tonight as a handy news peg. According to a most excellent Dobbs profile by Ken Auletta in the New Yorker, his show's audience has grown by 23 percent in the past year.
It seems our problems during the interview surfaced after a question I asked about that profile -- specifically, how he felt about Auletta drawing a marked contrast between his high-flying lifestyle (lunch at the Four Seasons, friendships with powerful moguls such as former Miramax head Harvey Weinstein) and his current aggressive advocacy of middle class issues.
Insisting he loved the story and it implications were obvious, Dobbs gave me a hard time for bringing up what he felt was such an obvious question. It was an odd situation -- critics' rap on Dobbs is that he presents complex issues such as illegal immigration in black and white terms, treating those who disagree with him as either idiots or charlatans.
Given the jacked-up state of world events, I don't blame viewers for gravitating to an authortarian figure who offers to take away the uncertainty surrounding some of the toughest issues of our time.
So what if the U.S. has spent decades building entire industries on the back of illegal immigration? Fine employers, build a wall, encourage vigilantees to help patrol the border and treat anybody who helps illegal immigrants like a criminal.
Who cares if loads of America's ports, gas stations and skyscrapers are owned by foriegn companies? If an Arab-owned corporation wants to buy the company which owns several American ports, the government needs to stop them. Now.
Doesn't matter that state and local governments provide the funding for America's schools and local communities elect boards to control them, under the reasoning that local experts would know what their kids need best. Schools are failing across the country, so it's time to enact a national education standard that every school distrct must follow -- whether they're in Des Moines, Iowa or Miami, Fla.
These are just a few positions Dobbs has advocated on his show, where he is allowed to express a level of opinion most news anchors on CNN are not. It's no secret that such steady advocacy is the key to keeping audiences engaged when news is slow; no matter how good your news operation is, there are always times when the events at hand are not nearly as compelling as the wacky theories some people have constructed to explain it all.
Critics may grouse that Dobbs expects the reporters on his show to echo his view of the issues the advocates -- to a degree that even Fox News rarely approaches. But second-place CNN can't risk conflict with one of the few guys whose audience is growing in cable news by asking him to make the news reports on his show more even-handed.
Brian Stelter of the most-excellent TV news Web site TVNewser noted that Dobbs' show drew about 1-million viewers Monday -- more than CNN star Larry King and timeslot rival, Fox News Channel's Brit Hume. Given that Hume's ratings usually dominate the time period, that was news, indeed.
No wonder CNN is trying hard to spread him around -- including him among the four anchors who handled their election coverage in November, continuing the town hall meetings which are often more highly rated than his regular program (according to Stelter), and including him as a guest on a CNN Newsroom report Saturday on people who have been squeezed out of the middle class called A Paycheck Away.
Given that King is getting older and has had health problems in the past, it's not a stretch to imagine Dobbs well-positioned to take his place whenever he decides to step down.
It's an amazing story of survival for a guy who started when CNN began as a business anchor/reporter and experienced a 9/11-inspired transformation into an advocate -- riding the trend of business boosterism when it was high and now surfing the wave of cable news opinionating.
"He created a brand for himself early (on CNN)...I don't think others did that, said Stelter. "Now, it's kind of accepted that people do that. He's reinvented himself."
What a cool story. Wish Dobbs had kept his cool long enough for me to explore it with him.
Why I Still Have Hope for the Golden Globes
Their decisions about who actually gets awards can still be baffling and irritating -- William Shatner as best supporting TV comedy actor in 2005, over Will & Grace's Sean Hayes and entourage's Jeremy Piven?
But this year's passel of Globe TV nominees, announced this morning, also shows how tuned in they can be to new gems -- WAAY before Emmy ever gets a clue.
Michael C. Hall from Showtime's Dexter, NBC's super-powered hit Heroes, ABC's infectious hit Ugly Betty, and Alec Baldwin's amazingly vapid corporate boss in NBC's 30 Rock are all major, spot-on nominations from shows which hit the small screen just a few months ago.
Three nominees for acting in a miniseries came from HBO's Tsunami miniseries -- WHICH HASN'T EVEN CONCLUDED PLAYING ON THE CHANNEL.
Last year's Emmy awards featured nominations for some series which had already been cancelled. Talk about contrast.
Worried about diversity? Then note that the Globes have nominated Sleeper Cell standout Michael Ealy; Thief star Andre Braugher; the amazing British couple from Tsunami, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sophie Okonedo; Ugly Betty's America Ferrera and Masi Oka from Heroes. (other than Ferrera, no people of color were nominated in major acting categories, however.)
The Globes have their pets as well -- Weed's Mary Louise Parker, Monk's Tony Shaloub, the Office's Steve Carell. And I'm stil frakked off that the Sci Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica remake -- which I still maintain is one of the best series on TV right now -- was not recognized.
But the fact is, if you want a list of the coolest, most creative shows on TV, you need go no further than this year's Golden Globes list. And it's been a long time since you could say that about the Emmys.